Literature and the Humanities

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A Comparative and Contrasting Analysis of:
“Impressionism”
&
“The Harlem Renaissance”
By:
Sean Roberts

Comparing Art periods is subjective by nature; which allows for a multitude of interpretations. Art originates in the minds of the Artists; influences to an Artist’s work can be attributed to myriad factors. Examples of such factors are: Ethnicity, Culture, Social Class, Life Experiences, Politics of a time period and maybe most influential are an individual’s personality traits.

The two Art Periods compared herein are Impressionism and The Harlem Renaissance. First covered will be Impressionism, which developed in the 19th Century; and originated in Paris, France. There are many Artists associated with Impressionism; however the most closely associated with Impressionism is Claude Monet. Like most popular and provoking art; Monet’s work sparked controversy within the Art Community of the time. It was a Monet painting which named the era; initially this work (figure 1) received negative criticism and is entitled: “Soleil Levant” – French “Impression Sunrise” – English. It’s not un-common for new ideas and concepts to be negatively criticized in the beginning.

“Louis Leroy was a French 19th century engraver, painter, and successful playwright. However; he is remembered as the journalist and art critic for the French satirical newspaper “Le Charivari” who coined the term “impressionists” to satrise the artists not known by the word. Leroy’s review was printed in “Le Charivari on 25 April 1874 with the title “The Exhibition of the Impressionists”. The term was taken from Claude Monet’s painting “Impression: soleil levant”. Leroy’s article took the form of a dialogue between two skeptical viewers of the work”. Leroy’s exact quote is: “Impression I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it – and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished that this seascape.” ("Wikipedia- "Louis Leroy",”)

Louis’ reaction to the painting is a perfect example as to how subjective art appreciation and interpretation can be. Louis most certainly never imagined that his critical play on the title of Monet’s work would declare a style of art for decades to follow.

Subject matter in Impressionistic works can consist of people, landscapes, and most any combination of the two. Subject matter that isn’t commonly found in traditional Impressionistic work is abstract shapes and objects.

Upon review of Impressionistic paintings it can be concluded that Impressionistic work is muted and in general is without definitive lines. Despite the murkiness of some of the works in Impressionism; the images and scenes are able to be easily identified by most observers. The Impressionistic techniques provoke contemplation of the images.

John Crowther a contributing editor for “Artists Perspective.com”, here he offers an explanation as to the style and social conditions that contributed to the creation and promotion of the Impressionistic style of painting. “More than any other factor, Impressionism took root as a reaction against the government sanctioned academic painting and that dominated French art in the first half of the 19th century. It grew from the interaction of artist who was angered by the establishment.” (Crowther, 2005) Prior to the era of Impressionism, Neo-Classism was the style of art that prevailed and was largely accepted and considered academic style. Neo-Classism consisted of work which depicted mythology and events in history and religion. According to Crowther: “Whenever art becomes institutionalized and rigid in terms of what is and isn’t permissible, artists are going to seek new solutions to old challenges. The history of art is a continual response to changing social conventions, political events, and cultural influences, and the...
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